Disney Publishing Worldwide has some good news for fans of Ryan T. Higgins, creator of a cache of bestselling stories starring the long-suffering Mother Bruce, spunky Penelope Rex, and waggishly dramatic porcupine Norman. The publisher has announced a deal with the author-illustrator for six new picture books from Disney-Hyperion that will feature his popular menagerie of characters—and likely some new players.
The book deal, which covers world rights, was brokered by Disney-Hyperion editorial director Kieran Viola and executive editor Sylvie Frank with Higgins’s longtime agent, Paul Rodeen at Rodeen Literary. The books will be edited by senior editor Brittany Rubiano and Frank. First up is a release scheduled for fall 2022 tentatively titled Penelope Rex Is REALLY, REALLY Not Afraid of This Goldfish, in which the young heroine must face her one fear—Walter, the class goldfish.
Frank, who joined Disney-Hyperion in June from Simon & Schuster’s Paula Wiseman Books, called working with Higgins straight away and making this acquisition “a thrill.”
“The creativity and humor in Ryan’s storytelling embody all that makes modern picture books exciting,” she said. “They spotlight universal feelings and experiences of children—like fitting in and getting along with others—in a way that engages them, challenges them, and makes them laugh. He understands kids and knows how to connect with them.”
Calling Higgins and his books “a pillar of our plans to expand Disney-Hyperion’s picture book program,” Frank added that the six-book deal “is a way to commit to Ryan as a long-term creator. We want to be along for the Ryan ride and hope that this is a stepping stone toward all future projects. Ryan is such a deep well and has so many ideas for characters he’s already created and for others that are percolating in his mind. Every time we talk, he manages to make me excited to see what is coming next.”
Higgins, who received the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award and an Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor for 2015’s Mother Bruce, echoed Frank’s enthusiasm for his most recent contract and ongoing relationship with his publisher. “I am thrilled to continue working with my Disney Publishing family,” he noted. “They’ve been by my side since the very first Bruce book and continue to offer me wonderful support and great opportunities. I have many more stories to tell about Bruce and the gang, and Penelope, and some new friends as well. I am amazed every day that I get to make up stories and draw cartoons for a living, and I’m so thankful that Disney-Hyperion wants me to keep doing it!”
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